Updated July 20, 2021 - 5:53 pm
The Oakland Athletics’ possible path to Las Vegas got a bit clearer Tuesday as the team’s proposal for a Bay Area waterfront ballpark was not approved by the Oakland City Council.
The city council instead voted 6-1, with Councilwoman Carroll Fife abstaining, to approve its amended counter proposal, which team President Dave Kaval said essentially amounts to a no vote.
“The current term sheet, even with these amendments is not something the A’s have consensus around,” Kaval said during the meeting. “I just really want to stress that voting yes on something that we don’t agree with… is not an effective path forward.”
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement Tuesday citing his dismay with the vote.
“For the last four years at my request and urging, the Athletics have invested significant resources and have made a major commitment to their community in the hopes of remaining as Oakland’s only major professional sports franchise,” Manfred said. “We are disappointed the city council chose to vote on a proposal to which the A’s had not agreed. We will immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the Club.”
The two plans going into the meeting — one from the A’s, one from the city — differed in several ways but the main sticking points were offsite infrastructure, community benefits and the length of a non-relocation agreement tied to the project site at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal.
The city amended several points on its proposal, including not holding the A’s responsible for $352 million in offsite infrastructure costs, which the team cited as a major issue. Even with that, the A’s weren’t satisfied.
Relocation becomes more possible
Without approval of the A’s proposed term sheet for a $12 billion mixed-use project that included a $1 billion stadium, Kaval said previously it would be challenging to see a path forward toward a new ballpark in Oakland, making relocation more of a possibility.
After Kaval expressed his concerns about the city’s amended term sheet, Fife questioned what the point of the meeting was if the A’s weren’t on board.
“I question why we’re even here today,” Fife said. “I don’t know where we go from here after doing somersaults, after receiving insults, after being disrespected.”
Kaval noted the team would entertain further negotiating over the next weeks before the council goes on break, but Fife didn’t see the point of doing so.
“It’s not a negotiation, it’s really do what we say or we will leave,” Fife said. “That is not respectful. I don’t even see the necessity of my comments if that’s the space they’re working.”
Kaval said Tuesday was the first time the team saw the city’s amendments. He said the A’s real estate team will review it to see what it entails and team officials will talk with league representatives.
“We’re a little in the dark and all of that language is stuff we’ve never seen before,” he said. “It was a surprise to us.”
A’s returning to Las Vegas
The A’s will continue their exploration of the Southern Nevada market this week, as Kaval, team owner John Fisher and a team architect will be in the Las Vegas Valley on Wednesday and Thursday to look at potential sites for a $1 billion ballpark.
The trip will mark the A’s fourth visit to Southern Nevada and Kaval said to expect members of the organization to make return trips every few weeks, as they continue to try to whittle a site list of 20 down to a handful of locations.
Kaval said they plan to meet with casino owner Phill Ruffin, who owns the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, a site the team has looked at in previous visits. The group will also utilize their architect to get a better feel of how a stadium would work on the various sites of interest.
“It’s critically important that we continue to engage Las Vegas and Southern Nevada, learn more about what opportunities exist, continue the really positive dialogue we’ve had to date with all the key players and see what’s in store for a potential future ballpark there,” Kaval said.
Kaval’s previous trips to Las Vegas and some of the social media posts he’s made during those visits didn’t sit well with Councilman Loren Taylor. He voted yes on the city’s proposal, but said if it were based off the A’s actions during the process he would not have.
“I do take issue to how the A’s have shown up through this process,” Taylor said. “The bullying tactics, the sleight of hand, the tweets from Vegas meant to taunt and sort of provoke. If we were voting on the A’s and how they behaved… it would certainly be a no vote.”
The unfavorable vote could lead Manfred to give the A’s permission to explore other cities for possible relocation. Reportedly there are six additional cities that could be considered.
Despite the A’s lack of enthusiasm for the proposal voted on, a joint statement from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilwomen Rebecca Kapaln and Nikki Fortunato Bas called the vote a “milestone” in their work to keep the team in the Bay Area, saying they believe the A’s should agree to those terms.
“Based on our extensive negotiation, shared values and shared vision, we believe the A’s can and should agree to the terms approved by the city council today,” the statement read. “This is the path to keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland in a way that protects our port and taxpayers and will produce the benefits our community demands and deserves.”